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What Have You Done for Me Lately? EEOC Issues Guidance on Curbing Harassment in the Workplace

July 11, 2017

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently convened a Task Force to investigate harassment in the workplace. The Task Force found that almost one-third of the 90,000 Charges of Discrimination the EEOC received in 2015 involved workplace harassment. It concluded that workplace harassment remains a "persistent problem." While the Task Force found that several factors contributed to workplace harassment, it believed three main areas needed to be improved for harassment to decline in the workforce.

  • First, the Task Force determined that there must be a stronger commitment from management to ensure workplace harassment is not tolerated.
  • Second, the Task Force concluded that employers must have established policies and practices in place that hold employees accountable for engaging in harassing conduct, and which permit employees to report harassing conduct.
  • Third and most importantly, it found that employers needed to shift anti-harassment training efforts from pure litigation avoidance to actual harassment prevention. The Task Force believes that training is most effective when tailored to the specific workforce and workplace, and when middle-managers and first-line supervisors, whom it believes are an employer's most valuable resource in preventing harassment, are trained correctly. The Task Force recommends that training should include "bystander intervention training," which empowers co-workers to intervene when they witness harassing behavior, and workplace "civility training," which focuses on promoting respect and civility in the workplace.

Consistent with this instructive guidance issued by the EEOC, all employers are strongly encouraged to assess their workplaces for risk factors associated with harassment and work with management to develop tools for minimizing those risks. Employers also should ensure that they have an anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure in place so employees know how to report harassment. Further, employers should regularly conduct harassment training for all employees. We recommend that the workforce receive training at least once every year and that at least twice a year employers remind employees of the procedures for reporting harassment under the employer's complaint procedure. Based on the EEOC's recommendation, employers should include workplace civility and bystander intervention training as part of their overhaul harassment prevention program.

We at Clark Hill offer a comprehensive harassment training program that meets the recommendations discussed in the Task Force's report.

  • We conduct internal assessment of your workforce to determine whether there are certain risk factors within the workplace that make it more likely for harassment to occur.
  • We review and audit your employee handbook and harassment policies and procedures to ensure that they are adequate, legal and effective.
  • We train your entire workforce, focusing on the traditional objective of minimizing liability, and the EEOC's new focus on workplace civility and bystander intervention. Our training includes both online training through HR Advantage and live training presented by experienced employment attorneys or human resource professionals.

If you have any questions and/or would like to discuss Clark Hill's comprehensive harassment training program, please contact Scott Cruz at (312) 985-5910 |, or another member of Clark Hill's labor and employment group.

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